From $270K To $2M In Three Years: Tommy Thornton Reveals His Growth Blueprint For MSPs

Tommy Thornton, a military veteran, founded Automates in 2014. Headquartered in San Diego, California, Automates has clients in 22 states. In this Q&A, Thornton shares his secrets to 18.76% YoY growth.

MSP Success: What are the top three business indicators you use to measure your company, and why?

Tommy Thornton: Top gross revenue is the number one metric we use to make sure we’re progressing upward. I use our net operating income (NOI) and try to maintain that at 20% or higher. The other is our monthly recurring revenue (MRR) because that’s how we gauge our progress. We’re transitioning from a hybrid break-fix model to a full MSP. While we did really well closing new clients this year, we still have a large subset of clients stuck in the old model. We are working on transitioning and upgrading them to our MSP services.

MSP Success: What is the top lesson you had to learn that allowed you to kick-start your business growth?

Thornton: Mindset. I had to get out of my own way. It took me five years, from 2014 to 2019, to take the company from $0 to $270,000 in total gross revenue. From 2020 to 2023, we have increased the business by 735%, growing it to over $2 million in revenue. A big shift in mindset happened for me in 2019. I thought, “Am I going to do this? Or am I going to work for the rest of my life?” It required creating the goals, setting the mindset, and going for it.

MSP Success: What is your single secret to success this past year?

Thornton: My Producers Club peer group with Technology Marketing Toolkit (TMT). I couldn’t survive without them. The best thing in 2023 was that group, which holds me accountable and helped me experience exponential growth in a short amount of time. Having this group to fall back on and ask them questions delivers answers I wouldn’t otherwise know. It has completely shifted my mindset. I learn every single week and use it to prop up my momentum even when I fail. I have failures every single day, but that peer accountability group saying, “Keep going, you’re doing good,” helped me keep my momentum. And also, TMT. In the one year, eight months, and 15 days since we joined, we’ve added well over $1 million in revenue. Without them, I wouldn’t have the sales and marketing processes or the growth I’ve experienced.

MSP Success: What is the biggest challenge you overcame this past year related to reaching that growth?

Thornton: We closed 28 new logos in 2023, so our biggest struggle was our onboarding process. We didn’t have the fundamentals down and were adding clients at such a fast rate that we had to squeeze those clients in.

MSP Success: What partners or tools helped you along the way?

Thornton: ProfitFuel by Kaseya. I’d been hesitant to use Kaseya because when looking at forums to see the software people were using, they didn’t necessarily have the best reputation. Most of the time, people like to attack big dogs, so I felt like it was unjust, but at the same time, I put Kaseya on hold because of their reputational struggles.

But then I went to the MSP Account Management Masterclass in Miami where I saw Kaseya CEO Fred Voccola interviewed by Robin Robins. He became instantly relatable when he shared his origin story on stage for the first time. He did an extremely good job of removing the veil from Kaseya and showing how they are in it for us. So, when ProfitFuel was announced in Miami, I took a leap of faith and immediately scheduled the ProfitFuel meeting.

Fred’s team looked at the tools I was currently using to see if they could save me money. There were no hard sales tactics, and Kaseya was able to save me money on every product I use. With the extra savings, I added additional products I needed. With the discounts, it just made sense to switch to Kaseya, and now it’s freeing up my tech people, too, so I’m also saving on man hours. [NOTE: With ProfitFuel, Kaseya’s staff will audit, inventory, and analyze any MSP’s (not just Kaseya partners’) existing technology stack, contract terms, usage, and costs, and then make recommendations for how MSPs can save money and reduce the number of tools techs need to master. The service is free, and no commitment is required to implement the suggestions.]

MSP Success: Who is the most impactful business leader whose techniques or leadership style you try to emulate or are influenced by, and why?

Thornton: Justin Kelley, CEO of Impact Technology Group, who is in my TMT peer group. Justin is just above me as far as his revenue, but he knows his numbers as I’ve never experienced anyone knowing their numbers. I really look up to what Justin is doing and how he is running his business. I try to emulate his thought process and mindset. Also, Jeff Farr [a TMT Expert in Residence] and Paul Cissel [CEO of Growth Caddie. I envy how these guys run their businesses off metrics alone. I aspire to do that, too.

MSP Success: What book would you recommend to other MSPs or SMBs trying to grow their business?

Thornton: I love 10x Is Easier Than 2x: How World-Class Entrepreneurs Achieve More by Doing Less by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy. If you want to change your mindset, then start with this book.

MSP Success: What words of wisdom would you give to other MSPs looking to grow their business?

Thornton: We can all have access to the same blueprint, campaigns, and strategies available at our fingertips through TMT. Being that you can create an equal playing field, it comes down to mindset. Apply what TMT gives you. It absolutely does work. When I was starting, I felt that if I could just get proof of concept so my brain could visualize it, I could move forward. Let me be your proof of concept. After just eight months, I got into Producers Club (TMT’s top tier). Within 11 months, I became a Better-Your-Best Top 5 Finalist. And within approximately 17 months, I grew my business over a million dollars to $2,257,000.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cindy Panetti Cyr is an accomplished author and marketing expert with a deep passion for direct-response marketing, technology, and travel. As a frequent contributor to MSP Success and IT Channel Insider, she draws on her over two decades of marketing experience and uncovering industry trends, providing engaging and informative articles that captivate readers in the ever-evolving world of IT and managed services. Cindy is the co-author of No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent (3rd Edition). She has written for clients that include Zig Ziglar, Magnetic Marketing (formerly GKIC), and ForbesBooks and has been published on various online and offline platforms helping thousands of business owners stay ahead of the curve. Cindy has traveled to 44 U.S. states and 28 countries (so far!) and has lived the digital nomad life for over 15 years.

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